Home » design opine » Page 2

Category: design opine

The Rich Visual Feast, Part 2

As stated in a post published in 2017, an artist should always strive to create “The Rich, Visual Feast” according to my printmaking professor, Lynwood Kreneck. I want to revisit this idea.

Over the holidays I saw two of the most visually compelling movies I’ve seen in a long time: Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse and The Favourite. Both were complex stories, but in all honesty I would almost like to see them both again but without the sound, just soak up the movies purely with my eyes.

Of the two, I prefer Spiderman for a few reasons. Visually, it is hands down one of the finest pieces of animation I’ve ever seen. The characters had such life and volume, yet were still had that cartoony look. Almost hyper-real, like Speed Racer from a few years ago. What really got me was the dot patterns — the moire patterns — you seen in old comic books due to the poor printing quality. Those dots were overlaid on most of the movie, although they would become more pronounced at times when the light hit them the right way. In all, the effect added so much more to the overall picture. It was breath-taking.

I am not really into period pieces, but agreed to see The Favourite because my wife loves these movies. Much to its credit, it was beautiful to watch. It is one of those movies that had me feeling uncomfortable the whole time, but afterwards we have yet to quit talking about it. These sumptuous, opulent costumed people in this ornate castle not being satisfied living out these extraordinary lives, despite the reality that there was a war with France going on, and the rest of England was suffering terribly. The story was filled with this kind of duality that you only come realize upon reflection afterwards.

That is ultimately the difference between the two movies. One was an instant hit of pure visual pleasure while the other presented itself in such a way that it compelled me to not only sit through it, but I still cannot quit thinking about it. There is an interesting lesson here about how to use visuals to tell stories and how powerful visuals can be.

Now, which one is my favourite?

You Know You’re a Designer When…

In March, I went for an eye exam and after confirming that my vision was in fact getting worse, and went to select a frame to hold the new prescription. I’d been wearing these modern Oakley frames and wanted to go for a different look. Something more bookish is what I had in mind.

As I went with the optometrist’s assistant to choose some frames, I was instantly drawn to a pair (blindly of course because I did not have my glasses on), put them on and loved them.

Easy, but one problem.

Out of the hundreds of frames to choose from, I had selected what had to be the most expensive frames in the store – a frame by Prada that cost well over $700, and that is before I put prescription lenses in them. I put the Prada frames back and selected another pair that I could afford.

This ability to pick out the very best of the very best is something I am quite good at, only I wish I had the finances to support these choices. I have been known to walk into a store, find a sport coat I love, look at the price tag and see that it is a couple thousand dollars.  “Champagne tastes on a beer budget”, unfortunately for me.

So what does any of this have to do with knowing when you’re a designer? Everything.

It’s more than simply having good taste. You will know you’re a Designer when you can innately spot the best of the best, whether it is design excellence, spotting inherent talent in someone or seeing a problem along with the solution to solve it. You’re a Designer when you don’t have to even think about these things because you are in tune with the world enough that you can make sound choices. Often times these choices will lead to creating a positive impact on the world.

Some people can do this quickly, like while they are still in school or shortly thereafter, while others have to grow into it. Neither is right nor wrong, or better or worse, it is just the way people are. The key is this: That you develop the ability. Being able to discern the truly excellent from the good is a key element to helping give you a unique voice as a Designer.

In the end, I ditched the frames I bought in March for a pair of Ray Ban’s (pictured above) in early December. Very simple, lightweight and comfortable – all excellent qualities. Just wish I hadn’t been blinded by the Prada’s in the first place.

Writing is design.

The quote above is from Ms Chappell Ellison on her recent interview with Jarrett Fuller on the podcast Scratching the Surface. A fair amount of navel gazing in this episode, but there are some good nuggets of wisdom worth uncovering and definitely worth a listen.

Strangely enough, I’ve grown to think of writing as a design problem, only the difference being  that rather than using visuals, the carefully crafted words are used to create images in the readers’ minds. Isn’t that what all writers do? As noted before, I used a similar line of thinking to get me through college algebra.

The parallels are interesting. Drafts are like sketches. Rewrites become the design process. Both design and writing are all about conveying ideas, only attacking the problem with words alone is often the best choice to communicate abstract ideas not easily represented by images. Whatever works best.

To me, at least, this is design thinking.

A Grumpy Salesperson

I do not make it a habit of speaking ill of former co-workers, bosses or employers. Whenever I have gone on the attack, I’ve only gone after the idea, never the person. With this in mind …

The other day I stumbled on to this quote from Jakob Neilsen:

A bad website is like a grumpy salesperson.

At first, it made me laugh. Then  pause. For more than two years of my life at Schlumberger I worked tirelessly to align the work my MarCom group was doing with the needs of the sales team. Since the downturn, the oil and gas space has been terrible spot to be in, so beyond being altruistic and merely wanting to help the company succeed, there was also a fair amount of self-preservation in the rationale, too.

Schlumberger unfortunately has one of the worst websites on the planet. At one time, it was a treasure trove of information that I routinely consulted in order to learn  more about technologies and techniques for producing hydrocarbons.

The vision was that it would be a sales tool. But in reality, it is a bloated, antiquated, dusty library.

Or as Mr Neilsen puts it, a grumpy salesperson. Someone who knows an awful lot but isn’t particularly good about sharing that knowledge.

I met with one of the lead sales trainers back in 2016 and he told me something that scarred the wee wee out of me. He stated that more than 85% of buying decisions in the B2B space are made prior to contacting a salesperson. Contact being a phone call or a simple click of a button requesting more info. Therefore, the site has to actually work harder to facilitate the buyer’s journey down the sales funnel. (Boy, I love all this jargon.)

To further these thoughts, when your site is a library, it bets the question: When was the last time you bought a book from a library?

Look at a randomly sampled page. The kitchen sink is there, I promise, if you can find it. What on God’s Green Internet would make you want to actually click on any of this noise? Even with years of experience with this site, I still get lost and confused.

That sales funnel is all filled with sticky, goopy stuff. The site actually hinders the buyer’s journey rather than enhancing it.

No longer being in the organization, I am not privy to any plans for the site. My understanding is they are going to relaunch it in January and I wish them well.

Post It Note Design

It is unofficially “Tool Week” at rat etc. First, a walk down amnesia lane blowing the dust off the lowly pica pole. And now, another useful tool …

The Post It Note.

As you are no doubt well aware, a large part of my disdain for “Design Thinking” is that when you Google the term and look at images representing the concept, most are of the shots of hipsters with stacks of Post-It notes (some stuck on glass walls) and with Sharpies in hand working their magic. I’ve participated in design thinking workshops and have not been impressed, largely because I’ve used many of these methods for years as part of my own way for working. I’ve never once found a Post-It useful for anything other than for its intended purpose — to remind me of something I knew I would forget if it was not written down.

Note the line quality — no Sharpie here.

Let’s travel back in time to 20 October. It is a day that will live in the annals of Design History as “The Day Mr Ratcliff Designed with Post-It Notes And Did Not Complain About It”.

I was on a crash assignment at Sysco and needed to come up with a story quickly. The project was to walk our friends in the Corporate office through the new process of engaging with my team. The challenge was to do it in a fun and memorable way rather than relying on a plain ol’ PowerPoint diagram.

As usual, I started in my notebook (Moleskine #64) but found that drawing and redrawing the action was taking way too much time. On my desk I spied an innocent stack of bright yellow Post-It’s. I quickly scratched out the story, made adjustments, jump from frame to frame then went back to fill in the gaps. It was glorious. And fast. I quickly cobbled together the story and started working on the visuals.

And I have Post-It Notes to thank for the help.

Every tool is useful. There is a time and a place for everything. Be resourceful and open to new approaches and tactics. Maybe even Design Thinking, of course.